Diocese of Brooklyn hit with 10 new lawsuits under Child Victims Act

New York Post/September 10, 2019

By Elizabeth Rosner and Ebony Bowden

Three newly-accused clergymen were named in a batch of sexual abuse lawsuits filed against the Diocese of Brooklyn on Monday in Brooklyn civil court.

The victims filed 10 separate suits under New York State’s new Child Victims Act, claiming they were repeatedly sexually abused by Catholic clergy in Brooklyn between the 1950s and 1980s.

Father Patrick Fursey O’Toole, Friar Rudolph Manozzi and Brother Julio Ortiz were newly accused of engaging in “unpermitted sexual contact” with the altar boy victims, according to court docs.

Both O’Toole and Manozzi are dead. Ortiz’s whereabouts are unknown.

O’Toole is accused of abusing an altar boy over a 9-year period in the 1980s at the now-demolished St. Ann’s Church, formerly in Brooklyn, when he was aged 9 to 18.

Manozzi’s victim said the priest molested him when he was a 10-year-old parishioner at Our Lady of Peace in Gowanus in 1953. Ortiz is accused of abusing an altar boy aged 11 at now-closed St Peter’s Our Lady of Pilar Church in Cobble Hill in 1976.

The 10 John Does who brought the suits allege the diocese acted negligently by failing to protect them and are seeking unspecified damages. The men claim they were sexually abused as boys, their ages ranging from 8 to 18 when the alleged abuse occurred.

Father Harold T. Cox, Father Thomas J. O’Rouke, Brother Richard Pinke, Father Michael C. Conroy, Father James T. Smith, Thomas Cullen, Brother Alphonsus Maher and Brother Masseo Butteri are also among the accused.

At a Tuesday press conference held by two Manhattan law firms representing the victims, survivor Tom Davis accused the Diocese of Brooklyn of protecting his alleged abuser who is alive and working as a vicar in Queens.

Davis said he was repeatedly molested as a teen by Father Otto Garcia in the 1970s and called on other victims to come forward.

Now aged 61, Davis said he went to the Catholic diocese in 2016 with the allegations but claimed an investigation took two days and was “basically swept under the rug.”

“Anybody else out there: it’s not too late to step forward. Stand up to these monsters like I have. Please,” Davis said. “I’ve lived with that for over 45 years without telling anybody.”

“[Garcia] was able to pick me up as a prime victim because my parents were very involved in the church and I wouldn’t think they’d believe me. I never said anything until my parents passed,” he said.

Garcia is still working as the Parochial Vicar at the Church of St. Teresa in Woodside. His attorney Dino Amoroso said authorities had cleared Garcia of any wrongdoing.

“Previously Mr. Davis made these allegations to the DA’s office, they dismissed it and closed the complaint out. The dioceses review board received it and threw it out,” Amoroso told The Post.

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Brooklyn said an independent investigation chaired by Joseph Esposito, a retired NYPD Chief of Department, found the allegations against Garcia were unfounded.

“The Diocese of Brooklyn works to eradicate sexual abuse every day, and we take issue with Mr. Anderson’s claims that we have swept this case under the rug,” she said.

The Diocese has “instituted the most aggressive policies when it comes to child protection,” she said, conducting initial and ongoing background checks on all employees and volunteers and requires age-appropriate sexual abuse awareness training for any adults who work with children.

The state’s Child Victims Act opened a one-year window for victims of child sex abuse to file civil lawsuits against their abusers, regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred, waiving the statue of limitations.

More than 100 lawsuits were filed just minutes after the legislation went into effect on Aug. 14.

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